I have been a fan of Khaled Hosseini ever since I read, “The Thousand Splendid Suns”, however “The Kite Runner” became my favourite. His third book, “And the mountains echoed” came around my birthday, and naturally it was gifted to me.
Before reading, I spoke about this book to a friend and she said she was a little disappointed with it. So, I tried not keeping that as an anchor in my mind and read it. I too felt a little disappointed with it. Too many characters, too many stories and it became difficult to follow. It wasn’t like Khaled’s initial two books, it didn’t revolve around just two characters, this book is wide spread and gives you a lot of stories to go with. The Kite Runner talked about sin and redemption and how your past keeps crawling up. “The Thousand Splendid Suns” talks about two young women who have no control over their life because of the men that over power them, the war, the hardships these women face and how they help each other.
And the mountains echoed, on the other hand talks about various issues. Two years later after I first read the book, I realised that may be my perspective with the book was wrong at that time and I should read it again, give it a fair chance. To be honest, I felt that a writer like Khaled Hosseini cannot go wrong with a book like this; there is definitely something that I was missing out.
So, a few days ago, I picked the book again, couldn’t have made a better decision that day.
“And the Mountains Echoed” is different than Khaled’s two other books, while the two other books talk about pain which only a few have gone through, kind of pain easy to sympathise with, this book has stories of so many characters, and these stories talk about pain which most of us discover, but don’t know how to sympathise with. May be that is the reason, I couldn’t appreciate the book the first time, I couldn’t sympathise with the characters like I could in “The Kite Runner” and “A thousand splendid suns”.
The book starts with a character telling his two young kids a story. This story, when one sees in retrospect says the summary of the whole story. We worry about the people we lose their wellbeing, but the reason we lost them in the first place because fate had a better life written for them. It’s hard accepting it, but sometimes it’s the truth.
The book deals with multiple issues at different paces, however, it starts and ends with Pari and Abdullah. These two siblings are separated at a young age, while Pari because of her age; her brother, Abdullah, suffers through the loss for the rest of his life. Ironically, when Pari finds out about him decades later, she is the one left with pain, because Abdullah can now not accept her because of his disease.
In between of these two siblings getting separated and meeting again, Khaled introduces us to a lot of characters, Nila Wahdati, Nabi, Suleiman Wahdati, Markos, Idris Dr. Amra, Thalia and the list goes on. It is genuinely difficult to keep track of these characters’ names, however when you are reading the book, their stories just flows through.
The stories has all kinds of pain, unrequited love, not being able to be one self, living in the closet because of the society, fighting against being different, being too hard on oneself, not being able to help someone you genuinely want to, losing parents and the fear of losing everything one has worked for. There is a story of a young boy facing the reality that his father is not actually the hero he thinks he is, but is a politician who even kills people for his advantage. There are so so many levels of this book that I cannot even do justice even describing them.
At each painful scenario, Khaled Hosseini manages to leave quotes that will leave a big, big hole in your heart. Two of them that managed to stuck stickily in my head were by Pari.
First when she fears she might lose her daughter, “It was madness. Sheer lunacy. A spectacularly foolish and baseless faith, against enormous odds, that a world you do not control will not take from you the one thing you cannot bear to lose. Faith that the world will not destroy you.”
The second when she’s speaking to her niece about her brother and his absence, “You say you felt a presence, but I only sensed an absence. A vague pain without a source. I was like a patient who cannot tell the doctor where it hurts; only that it does.”
Nila Wahdati and Suleiman Wahdati both live in a society that fail to understand them and let them being, they face a society which is against everything these feel, it’s ironic that both of them failed to understand the pain the other felt. It’s ironic that fate had two people facing such similar issues married, yet these two couldn’t talk, couldn’t understand each other and suffer. While one writes her pain, the other paints.
The story has a father giving up his daughter because he couldn’t afford to raise her, and the story has a father who keeps her daughter so close to her, that it actually made her give up her dreams. While a mother gives up her daughter because of her because of her want to be an actress, one mother cannot connect to her son no matter how hard she tries. The book is filled up with irony, and it’s so sad that even after the book ends, there’s no happy ending. The book shows that how past has its way of showing up and how life is not fair. Not everyone gets closure and guilt will eat you, if you let it.
The book has characters like Nila, who give up on life, even after having the power of making the world do things for them, and another character like Thalia, who faces adversity with all her strength, who doesn’t give up and faces life.
The book gives you a host of characters to sympathise with, but it’s you who decides which character you chose. As for me, I chose Pari Wahdati.